This post originally appeared on the blog The Kindergarten Connection.
We have probably all heard the term “mom guilt.” Have you heard the term “teacher guilt?” I believe teacher guilt is a real thing, and something I have had to address hard with myself in the past year or so in order to attempt to live a more balanced life.
So, what exactly is “teacher guilt?”
Teacher guilt happens when you feel like there is always more you want to do for your students, but yet there just simply isn’t enough time (this happens for nearly all teachers, trust me!) to get it done, and you feel guilty because “if only I could be like that one super teacher I know….” and “maybe I should be bringing more home or staying longer… as well as, “does this make me a bad teacher if I don’t?”… and so on.
For me, it was things like this that were happening:
- Feeling guilty about trying to go home before 5 pm (even though that is still past “teacher time” – does that phrase make anyone else laugh?) I knew I could stay probably literally forever and keep making things even better for my students, but was it at the expense of other areas in my life?
- Hearing from teacher friends and seeing on social media how many teachers spend their weekends in school, and feeling guilty that I stopped doing that a year ago (I used to be an “every weekend” teacher!) in order to bring some balance to my life.
- Remembering the days when I packed home enough stuff for five classrooms to work on, then feeling like something is wrong with me because I don’t do that anymore (or I try not to anyway!) – does that mean I am not caring enough?
- Seeing social media posts that are definitely inspiring and amazing, but then realizing maybe I don’t do all of those things, and wondering if what I am doing is enough – is it?
All these thoughts were swimming in my head, causing me to feel guilty in some ways, like I wasn’t doing enough, even though I feel as though my life is already wrapped around teaching so much.
I needed to deal with these feelings so that I could continue to attempt a balanced life (which I am finding never gets easier as a teacher!)
How to Combat “Teacher Guilt”
A lot of how I dealt with teacher guilt was to not ignore it (because goals to be a better teacher are GREAT) but to change the way I talk or think to myself. For example:
- If I am tired and burnt out as a result of trying to be super teacher, then who is that helping? No one. I remind myself of this when I feel like I should be coming home like a pack mule for the evening with school stuff.
- I remind myself that I never want to lose my teacher passion. I love teaching, I really do. I think I love it more now that it is a huge part of my life, but not necessarily my entire life. I used to think if it wasn’t my whole life then maybe I just wasn’t passionate enough or excited enough, but I have learned that when I am not doing teaching things 24/7, I am actually more passionate during the times that I am! (Because who can be super passionate when they are exhausted and burnt out?!)
Your passion for teaching is not conveyed solely through hours logged in your classroom. Repeat that. Repeat it again.
- While there is always more to do, my family has to come first. When I lived at school on the weekends, I was missing out on important family time. Now, I am making my family a priority, and it is really making me feel better all around.
- I love teaching, and that right there is something to be said. I care deeply about my students. I care enough about my students to also take care of myself, so that I can give them my best every day.
Take care of yourself. Repeat that. Repeat it again.
- I compare myself only to myself (or I am trying to). I love to learn and I strive to always grow as a teacher, but comparing myself to others only makes me stressed out. No two teachers are the same, and no one is perfect. We all bring unique strengths to our classrooms.
Do not compare yourself to other teachers. You are enough. Start with you, and grow from there.
Have you ever felt a form of teacher guilt? How did you deal with it?
I am happy that this year I am trying to learn and grow, while still getting some balance. So, friends, teach on, and remember – you are making a difference!
Alex is a Kindergarten teacher and the founder of The Kindergarten Connection, The Letters of Literacy, and TpT store Alex John. She is a major night owl and coffee lover who loves to talk about teaching and collaborate with others. She is also a collector of children’s books and currently owns over 2,000.